Friday, December 7, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The first installment of Peter Jackson’s TheHobbit: An Unexpected Journey is being captured in ways that push the state of the art in cinema technology to new limits in resolution, frame rate, and 3D.

Resolution: The Hobbit is being shot in RED Epic cameras at a resolution of 5K, this is a little more than five times the resolution of high definition and can reveal incredible detail in the sets, costumes, makeup, and overall scene. Films have been shot at this digital resolution before, but to see the finished movie at this resolution (4K actually), you’ll need to find a cinema that is screening it at 4K resolution.

High Frame Rate: The movies have been showing at a rate of 24 frames per second since the advent of sound motion pictures in the mid to late 1920’s. Before sound pictures, the frame rate was usually between 16 and 18 frames per second. An experiment in the 1970’s called Showscan shot film at an unprecedented 60 frames per second, but didn't catch on due to the increased costs of going through film 2.5 times faster than normal. Additionally special cameras and projectors were needed to work in Showscan.

Digital camera technology recently allowed more frame rates and the RED Epic allowed The Hobbit to be shot at 48 frames per second, double the current cinema standard of 24 fps. Tests and advanced screenings have elicited mixed reviews since this faster frame rate has a markedly different visual aesthetic. You’ll have to see for yourself and decide if HFR cinema is something that you can watch and enjoy. On the technical side, the 48 fps process doubles the temporal resolution of the movie; action sequences and quick motion on screen is rendered with more detail.

The closest (to me) cinema screening The Hobbit in HFR is the Hamilton 16 IMAX near Noblesville, just north of Indianapolis at exit 210 off of I-69.

3D: In addition to shooting The Hobbit at 5K resolution and at 48 frames per second, they also shot in stereoscopic 3D. The production crew studied what 3D has to offer and how to use 3D as a visual tool to bring out meaning and nuance in the finished movie (much the same way color, sound, and lighting have developed meaning in the story). The production video diary #4 looks at the use of 3D in The Hobbit:

All in all, if you want to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the way that the production is intended to be seen, make plans to trek up to the Hamilton 16 IMAX to see the HFR 3D presentation.

This post was edited down into a portion of an article about The Hobbit posted at IU.

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